Tornado Alley

Tornado AlleyBy, Nan Claire Falkner

In 1970 Arkansas, there were few basements. The center of the house, or the sturdiest bathroom was considered ‘shelter’ for many during storms.

The family that lived across the street from Elmdale Shopping Center heard the sirens and they dove into the hallway, as they could hear a roaring “train” coming toward them.

Thirty seconds later, it was raining on everyone in their pajamas. Sisters, Debbie and Nancy Emmett held onto each other shaking violently. “Thank you God!” The family survived unharmed – the house wasn’t as lucky.

In the backyard, between lightening bursts, they could see the unused storm shelter.


58 thoughts on “Tornado Alley

  1. Whoa … This has a true story base. And the sirens was the fire truck that I was riding on. We were the first unit to arrive and we found the Elmdale shopping center in the middle of the street. You could not get down the street, so we parked the truck and went on foot looking for the injured. That was a long night. While many were injured, there was no one seriously hurt. What luck!!

    • I remember that night well! What a terrible night and so many people were hurt, I think only one person died late that night crossing the street in dark clothes, and was hit by a car. Then, there was the husband/wife who had just gone to bed and the husband said the roof was leaking on his head. Thanks for reading! Nan 🙂

  2. A lucky escape. If they’d run for the storm shelter they might not have made it. I can clearly see in my mind the sisters clinging to each other amidst the devastation.

    • Dear Draliman, You are absolutely right! It was only about 10 feet from the kitchen door, but Debbie said none of them would have made it to the shelter – so it was good that they didn’t try. Thank you for stopping by! Nan 🙂

    • Dear Dawn, Yes, we were all glad that no one got hurt. A couple down the street, were reading in bed, and suddenly rain was falling on them. Mike, my husband, worked for the fire department and was the first fire truck there. They all thought it was a hoax, until they turned the corner, and the road was gone, with insulation, wood, clothes, broken furniture and everything else where the road should have been. Have a good week Dawn! Nan 🙂

    • Dear Snow, Thank you for stopping by. Tornadoes are very scary and especially at night, because you can’t tell where it is. In 1984, a tornado went directly over our house, we lost some shingles, but nothing else. As it went over, it sounded like I was standing behind a jet at the airport – so loud!. Thanks again! Nan 🙂

    • Dear Marie Gail, We had played in the shelter a few times, but it always felt like – well, a crypt! Creepy to me. Anyway, I don’t think they had to use it during another storm. Thanks for stopping by Marie! Nan 🙂

    • Dear Dusky, If they are coming toward you, it’s a lot more scary. Yes, the family survived, but the tornado made a huge mess! and it took a long time to clean up. Some places didn’t reopen, and others left town not rebuilding their home. But our town survived and we had chickens ready for market, so I’m glad we weren’t hit – we were only 1/8 mile from the storm. Thanks for stopping by! Nan 🙂

  3. I remember that event. Even concrete block walls were destroyed. They abandoned the term “Elmdale” shortly thereafter and there hasn’t been a tornado in that area since. Coincidence? I think not.

    • Hi Patrick! Thanks for stopping by, and yes, tornadoes are nothing to ignore. I have been in a category “0” which is scary too! I was at the High School, picking up the boys from football practice and the tornado came west to east over the school gym. The Coaches wouldn’t release the boys, so I told my two sons, to go get in the car now. About 15 seconds later, the lady just ahead of me was lifted up and thrown down to the ground. She was okay, and I was too – but I lost my antique gold locket (necklace) with Mikes picture in it. The boys were all okay too but the funnel pushed all the roofing supplies off the roof onto the kids. Still, no one got hurt – thank God!

  4. Good stuff, Nan! Very real, which we know too well in Kansas. I was at a screenwriter’s workshop for two weeks in Superior, Nebraska with some people from California during the recent storms two weeks ago and they said (their first time in the Midwest), “Wow! I get to be in a tornado!” I thought, Ohhh-KAY …..

    • Dear William, Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I have seen tornadoes in the distance, up close, and heard them. They are scary so I’m glad we have basements in Kansas now. The water table is so high in Arkansas, that basements flood. Have a great week – for some reason, I thought your name was Kent. Oh well, my brain cells are temperamental! Nan 🙂

      • Yes, it is Kent. There were like FIVE of me, so I used a synonym. Maybe I should call myself The Polo Brothers! Are you the one who lives in Lenexa?

  5. I can see the shelter in the flash of lightning! It’s hard to think in the midst of a storm. Arkansas seem to be a storm center. Isn’t that where Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz came from?


  6. An interesting story – tornados aren’t something we generally have to worry about in England, which makes it all the more exciting to read about. I’m sure it must have been a terrifying experience though.
    As an aside I’ve just spent a very pleasant ten minutes researching ‘dove’ v ‘dived’ – it seems ‘dove’ is more common in American and ‘dived’ more common in English, but neither side of the pond says ‘nosedove’ for ‘nosedived’ or ‘skydove’ for ‘skydived’. So now we know 🙂

    • Thanks El, Yes, we have quirky “English” over here. I live in Kansas, and we have tornadoes each Spring. Thanks so very much for stopping by! I would love to see England some day as we have only been to Switzerland and France, Monaco, and it is so beautiful! Nan 🙂

  7. Nan, That was a great memoir. How wonderful it missed your home and all those people survived. I’m from Ohio and that’s called tornedo alley, but I never saw one there. The only one I ever saw was in Virginia when I was with my parents years ago. We saw it coming while Dad was driving our car on a bridge. It went by us and hit the city where we were headed. Some parts of Ohio are very flat and a terrible one hit there one time tearing a city apart. Well written. 🙂 —Susan

    • Dear Susan, Thanks for reading. I have seen several tornadoes over the years on the ground, and once when I was flying into St. Louis, I saw one off to the south of the airport. Scary and I hate to fly anyway. My oldest son was with me and he was scared because the plane was jumping up and down so much. Scary ride! Thanks, Nan

    • Dear Real Cie: Thank you for reading my story. I enjoyed the Netherworld. Tornadoes are scary and extremely loud – your ears will pop so duck and cover – hopefully in a basement, cellar, or bathtub! I said earlier that they didn’t build basements in the South because of the water table (that’s what a sump pump fixes). The truth is, it’s cheaper to build a house without a basement and the reason the North have them is because of the Frost Line (which builders have to go below for the water lines. My husband corrected me! Oh well, what do I know? Nan 🙂

  8. Nan, there was a very real sense of the tornado and fear in your story. Our home here in Australia where tornadoes are a rarity, was hit by a storm a few months ago. A lot of the damage to our property is still awaiting repair and some people said they saw ‘twisters’ before it hit. It was reported on the news as a mini-cyclone! And yes, we were frightened to bits.

    • Dear dianthrelfo: Wow – you are in Australia? How cool is that! I’ve never been there, but my husband has been there twice and to New Zealand twice also. I now can say I met someone on the internet from Australia. Getting back to the tornadoes, I don’t know why the United States have so many tornadoes, more than other countries, but there are several theories on line – most having to do with the Rocky Mountains on the West and the Appalachian Mountains on the East. They are scary, my twin sister has been in one before and it freaked her out! She stayed calm until it was over though! Have a wonderful week and thanks a lot for stopping by! Nan 🙂

  9. That’s fascinating. They couldn’t even make it to the storm shelter! Sounds like so many tragedies where we think about the victims “why didn’t they just …” But there isn’t time; there’s never enough time in a catastrophe. Great job!

    • Dear Perry, I remember that night vividly, and the “All Clear siren had gone off about 5 minutes before the tornado hit. But, unless it’s easy to get to, sometimes you won’t make it to a shelter. Have a good week! Nan 🙂

    • Dear Pattisj, Thank you so very much for stopping by. Tornadoes are no fun at all. I remember just about every other year having to go to the basement with the kids, or the hallway when we lived in southern Arkansas for 3 years. But at least we always went and didn’t act like the morons that will stand out on their front porch and watch the storm until they are sucked into it. Again, thanks! Nan 🙂

  10. i always wondered why areas that are more prone to tornadoes do not have more homes built with basements. guess storm shelters away from the homes are cheaper to install. you described a very horrible moment for any family having to go through this type of destruction. scary!!

    • Hi Sun! In the south, the water table is so high that if you build a basement, your sump pump would run 24 hours a day just to keep the water out of the basement – thus no basements in Oklahoma, Arkansas, or Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Texas. Then you get to basement territory: Kansas, Upper Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota. Well, there are other states because all the states have had tornadoes at one time or another. But The Alley is where I have lived most of my life. Thanks for the feedback! Nan 🙂

    • Dear Ann Melinda, Thanks for reading my stories! I knew you would remember Debbie’s tornado and the night that you were out with Alan and mother was worried sick because our house was shaking from the vibrations of the tornado. Mike on the first firetruck at the scene, and Thank God very few people were hurt. Thanks again, Twin B 🙂

  11. Customer feedback: Pleading the fifth as we speak.

    This was hilarious, clever and a lot of fun to read. Well done Nan!

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